Flu season is officially here, and in light of the COVID-19 pandemic’s continued effects across the country, doctors are imploring people to get their annual flu shot. In a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times, McDermott partner Michelle Strowhiro discussed approaches and options for employers as they consider making the flu vaccine mandatory.
Some essential workers are refusing to go to work out of fear of contracting COVID-19. Their employers must weigh the employees’ legal rights and understandable health concerns with the organizations’ business needs. It can be a tough balancing act.
In a recent article, McDermott Partner Pankit Doshi said employers may relax documentation requirements due to the difficulty some employees could have obtaining access to medical providers during the pandemic and to encourage ill employees to stay away from work.
Employers are poised to collect health data from their workforces daily as they adopt temperature checks and other screening protocols to fight the coronavirus, triggering concerns about workers’ privacy and whether the practices will continue beyond the pandemic.
“The temperature checks give employees and customers the feeling of safety and the idea that the company is doing everything possible, even if the screenings don’t protect the workplace,” said Michael Sheehan, a partner with McDermott Will & Emery, in a recent Bloomberg Law article.
With rapid developments in local, state and federal guidance and law, the appropriate approach for each employer in relation to COVID-19 will vary depending on the nature of their work, the industries served and their location and size, among other considerations. This article outlines what employers need to know about employees experiencing symptoms and employee absences.
Certain employers might prefer to avoid hiring nicotine users: smokers, dippers and vapers alike. U-Haul International Inc. is doing so, with a policy that went into effect on February 1. Thus, this is an opportune moment to examine why employers might consider doing likewise, the legal ramifications of such policies and the alternatives for encouraging healthier workforces.
McDermott’s Jacob M. Mattinson, Aaron Sayers and Erin Steele contribute to a Law360 article exploring the practical and legal considerations related to a workplace nicotine ban, the impact on healthcare costs, whether employers can use health plan information to fire nicotine users once hired, and how other employers are addressing the costs of nicotine usage in their workforces.
Originally published on Law360, January 2020
During the most recent Tax in the City event in Dallas, Partners Erin Turley and Judith Wethall, presented on the rise of consumer driven health care. Some popular programs they discussed include wellness, smoking cessation, high deductible health plans and HSAs, telemedicine, direct contracting and affordable care organizations. They also discussed the compliance complexities associated with these programs, including ERISA, FLSA and HIPAA privacy concerns.
In October 2016, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) sued the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in the US District Court for the District of Columbia seeking an injunction against the latest iteration of wellness program regulations. The final EEOC regulations issued last year offer employers a roadmap for offering employee wellness programs that pass muster as “voluntary” examinations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA). In response, AARP argued that the EEOC failed to adequately justify the new rules and abused its regulatory power by reversing course on its long-standing position against wellness programs.
Today, the EEOC issued its model notice to be used in conjunction with wellness programs that ask disability related inquiries or require medical examinations. The notice requirement applies prospectively to employer wellness programs as of the first day of the plan year that begins on or after January 1, 2017, for the health plan used to determine the level of incentive permitted under the regulations. An employer’s HIPAA notice of privacy practices may suffice to satisfy the ADA notice requirements if it contains the ADA-required information. However, given the timing requirements for distribution of the HIPAA notice and the fact that the EEOC rules apply to wellness programs outside of the group health plan, a separate ADA notice may be required.
EEOC Releases Final Wellness Program Regulations Related to the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act
The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently released final wellness plan regulations providing guidance on how employer wellness programs may comply with Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA). The EEOC made it very clear that compliance with the HIPAA nondiscrimination rules does not necessarily mean that an employer is in compliance with the final wellness program rules under the ADA or GINA.
On December 30, 2015, a federal judge in the Western District of Wisconsin ruled in favor of Flambeau, Inc. and against the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in holding that Flambeau’s medical exams as part of its wellness program and self-insured medical plan did not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).